Curl Up With These Holiday Romances

It’s so hard to find a good Christmas novel without it turning way too Hallmark-y or otherwise being annoying. I’ve read a ton of them, and really don’t want to put most of them on this list. But there are a few that really hit the spot and make me want to read them again and again.

This year, #1 is Emergency Contact by Lauren Layne and Anthony LeDonne, with Snowed In being up there too. The list is rounded out with a few of my favorites from 2023 and other years.

Emergency Contact is easily my favorite of the 2023 holiday season! Two witty exes trapped on a road trip full of misadventure and hilarity? Yes, please! When Katherine suffers a concussion and a giant gash on her back from a taxi accident, the hospital calls her emergency contact. Who happens to be her ex-husband, Tom. Who’s trying to get out of NYC for Christmas so he can propose to his girlfriend.

The plot, banter mixed with depth and legit feelings, plus Emergency Contact’s perfect not-too-long-not-too-short length = A+, must read again.

Rating: 4.7
Steam: None
Themes and Tropes: Second Chance, Road Trip, Holidays/Christmas, Enemies to Lovers, Close Proximity
Pair With: Perfect pairings with Bolognese sauce. Consider a nice Barolo such as La Spinona Sori Gepin, Kirkland Signature Barolo at Costco, or Giovanni Rosso Barolo del Commune di Serralunga d’Alba

Hmmmm, another fake-dating-for-the-holidays story. Can I do it? With Snowed In, yes! Megan’s avoided her hometown like the plague ever since she ditched seemingly perfect Isaac (newsflash, he’s not perfect) on their wedding day. Christian is rich and successful and perfectly content, thanks, but is so sick of his family wishing he could find love. So when they bump into each other in Dublin, both dreading their visit home for Christmas, they hatch the perfect plan…

Snowed In is a cute story where both characters are misjudged by the town and find solace and fun with each other, open up to each other, and find something real. Huge plus that the third act was NOT super annoying or stupid, but made sense and worked with the story.

Rating: 4
Steam: Low to Medium
Themes and Tropes: Fake Relationship, Small Town, Ex in Town, Christmas, Families Coming Together
Pair With: Wines to Keep You Warm at Christmas

Fun, sexy, and hilarious. The two (now adult) kids of bitterly feuding rock stars try to reunite their moms for a Christmas Eve show and fall in love in the process.

Liked: Beat and Melody, the hilarity of the side characters, and did I say Beat and Melody?

Disliked: The blackmail premise was weak, the story dragged at times, and the third-act obstacle was annoying, but the fun of the relationship made up for it.

Rating: 3.9
Steam: Medium
Themes and Tropes: Christmas, Family, Opposites Attract, Childhood Acquaintances, Reunions
Pair With: Rock Star Wines, Warming Wines

Four novellas associated with characters and stories from these authors’ longer works—quick, fun Regency stories to get you in the holiday spirit.

I Will by Lisa Kleypas. Bad boy rake Andrew Drake needs to find a respectable woman so he can be in his father’s will. Who better than his friend’s uptight spinster sister, Caroline, for some fake courting? 3.5.

Deck the Halls With Love by Lorraine Heath. Second chances are in the air when Alistair is determined not to mess it up with Meredith this time, only she’s engaged to someone else and has no time for the man who broke her heart. 3.

No Groom at the Inn by Megan Frampton. My favorite of the anthology. James can’t deal with all the single debutantes throwing themselves at him, finds Sophronia about to get on the mail coach, and makes an offer she can’t refuse to be his fake fiancée at a house party. 4.5 adorable.

The Duke’s Christmas Wish by Vivienne Lorret. A fun prequel to the Season’s Original Series (which was also a lot of fun), science-obsessed Vale thinks love comes down to his formula, but in comes Ivy to throw off his hypothesis and his heart. 4.  

Rating: 3.75 average of the four stories.
Steam: Low to Medium.
Themes and Tropes: Holidays, Family, Reformed Rake, Fake Relationships, House Parties, Close Proximity, Opposites Attract.
Pair With: Warm Holiday Wines

A super cute and incredibly warm, feel-good story of opposite personalities from opposite walks of life falling in love at Christmas. Gruff and hardworking Leo takes care of his little sister, drives a New York cab, works as a building super, and is barely keeping it together. Literal princess Marie is trying to save her country’s economy and books Leo to drive her around town.

A Princess for Christmas is a perfect combination of Hallmark sweetness (and maybe stereotypes) with romance novel steam, if that’s up your alley. All in all, a fun, easy holiday read.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Low to medium
Themes and Tropes: Holidays, Opposites Attract, Different Walks of Life, Princess, Sibling’s Guardian
Pair With: Christmas Wines

Sexy Latin star Javi and serious British singer Cara are paired for a Christmas duet. Both feel instant attraction and both put up their defenses immediately, Javi with his shallow flirtations and Cara with her refusal to have any fun. But of course the walls come down and slowly the characters connect.

Loved the characters and Javi’s daughter, loathed Cara’s father, but I guess we can’t get everything we want! Leonie Mack is a huge favorite of mine, so it’s no surprise that I loved My Christmas Number One too.

Rating: 3.9 (Cara’s dad and a few annoying spots kept me from a higher rating)
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Family, Growing Together, Opposites Attract, Musicians, Holidays/Christmas
Pair With: Christmas Drinks, Colombian Wine

What happens when two bitter enemies must compete to save their beloved hotel and the colleagues they see as family? Hijinks, subterfuge, and . . . love?

This book is a little love-hate for me. I loved the buildup of the relationship, the humor in the hotel family, and the overall flow and story. My two hates: (1) the premise (a miscommunication, UGH) and (2) lopsided character growth. Lucas has some self-awareness and works on it; Izzy takes forever to learn anything and move forward. Still, by the end of the book I was glad I read it.

Rating: 3.5
Steam: Low
Themes and Tropes: Miscommunication, Enemies to Lovers, Workplace, Christmas, Proximity
Pair With: Christmas Wines, favorite things to order in a hotel bar. 

The Christmas Fix by Lucy Score

A November hurricane decimates the Christmas-obsessed town of Merry, Connecticut and wipes out the center of Christmas festivities. Kick-ass reality TV star and kindhearted soul Cat King swoops in to repair the damage by Christmas Eve. But, instead of welcoming the help, town manager and single dad Noah Yates does all he can to chase her out of town.

Cat’s been underestimated before, and knows how to deal with guys like Noah. But eventually they have a whole different way of dealing with each other.

Rating: 3.8
Steam: High
Themes and Tropes: Christmas, Collaboration, Enemies to Lovers, Small Town
Pair With: Wines from Merry Cellars, Washington.